Intra- and extracellular dehydration-induced thirst-related behavior in an amphibian

Kris Taylor, Loretta P. Mayer, Catherine R. Propper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The behavioral response to dehydration is critical to an animal's survival. Because of their permeable skin, amphibians are particularly sensitive to dehydrating conditions. We tested the hypothesis that different forms of dehydration induce water absorption response (WR) behavior in the desert spadefoot toad, Scaphiopus couchii. First, we determined the behavioral response to intracellular dehydration by treating fully hydrated toads with increasing concentrations of hypertonic solutions of NaCl or sucrose via intraperitoneal injection (i.p.). Animals that were treated to induce intracellular dehydration with either solute exhibited a significant increase in WR behavior compared to vehicle-treated controls. To distinguish that the response was a result of an increased osmotic gradient between the intra- and extracellular compartments, we treated fully hydrated animals i.p. with urea, which freely passes into the intracellular compartment and increases overall animal osmolarity. Urea treatment did not induce WR behavior. To determine the response to extracellular dehydration, the blood volume of fully hydrated toads was reduced via cardiac puncture, and the WR behavior was measured. Animals who had a reduction in blood volume exhibited a significant increase in WR behavior compared to sham-punctured controls. Our results are the first to demonstrate that multiple forms of dehydration can induce thirst-related behavior in amphibians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-721
Number of pages5
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - 1998


  • Amphibian
  • Drinking behavior
  • Intracellular and extracellular dehydration
  • Thirst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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